The Friday Interview: Mr Peter Fyles
With the sun shining over Täby, IEGS News winged its way to Nytorpsvägen 5a, the home of Internationella Engelska Skolan Central Services. Here we met with CEO Mr Peter John Fyles to discuss education and the future of IEGS.
IEGSNEWS: How did you get into education?
Mr Fyles: When I was 17 I spent some time working at a factory. My sister asked me if I was going to do that for the rest of my life. She’d gone off to university and it got me thinking. I went back to school and took my A levels and went on to university.
A few years later I found myself living and working in Ireland. After attending an Open Day for prospective teachers at Galway University I decided to get my teaching qualifications. That led me into teaching, Folkuniversitetet in Sweden, and eventually Internationella Engelska Skolan in Enskede in 1997.
IEGS: The Gymnasiet has changed drastically in ten years? This year it will celebrate its anniversary. Where would you like to see it in 10 years time?
Mr Fyles: That’s easy. I want to see IEGS as THE academic gymnasium in not only Stockholm, but Sweden. I want us to have the best results, an extensive queue of applicants, and I want the school to be a thriving hub of academic development. It’s a long journey, of course, and in many respects we’re just getting started. But the current management team and staff are doing an excellent job and they’ve worked hard to improve our standing. We can already see progress since we moved to Södermalm last year.
IEGS: What’s the biggest challenge facing the gymnasiet in the coming ten years?
Mr Fyles: From a helicopter perspective, I can see that it can be hard for the school as part of an organisation where all the other schools are grundskolor.
However, we’re aware there’s a difference and try to take that into consideration. From June 1, 2010 Mr Damien Brunker will be full-time Head of Academics for the organisation. He’ll be working to ensure there’s more flow between all the schools including the gymnasiet.
At Central Services we’re also working to help Dr Benedikz and her management team put together statistics and monitoring services to ensure the quality of education on offer. We’re giving them tools to make the gymnasium better.
As we strive to provide the right kind of education for the future we’re also committed to providing training for our staff. This year we brought in Professor Todd Whitaker from the US who spoke at our All Staff Day earlier this year. By working with people like Professor Whitaker IES staff further adapt to help our students meet the challenges of education.
IEGS: There’s been a lot of coverage in the UK regarding Swedish free school. What role does IES have to play ? Does IES plan to open schools there?
Mr Fyles: We’ve been in discussion with British politicians like Michael Gove and recently took part in the Spectator’s Free Schools Revolution Conference in the UK. I spoke on the Lessons from Sweden Panel and shared some of our experiences.
IES is keen to be involved in important educational discussions, for example, like the one currently raging in the UK. As things currently stand, we’re looking at getting accreditation to start schools in the UK, but whether we actually make this move or not has not been decided yet. We believe our ethos is transferable to the UK, although of course we wouldn’t put any focus on teaching Swedish (!); nevertheless, I believe IES could add to the quality of education in Britain so we’re talking with politicians, parents and educationalists. It’s an exciting time to be involved in international education.
IEGS: Finally, do you miss the classroom?
Mr Fyles: Yes. Definitely. I love teaching. It’s great fun and a fantastic profession. To go live on stage everyday and ensure that young people are learning and gaining new knowledge. It’s wonderful. When they take in new ideas, and you know it’s gone home, you can feel a great sense of self-satisfaction. As the CEO I’m not in the classroom very often anymore. You don’t get the same immediate feedback that you do when you teach, seeing young lives develop. An ex-student of mine from Gävle recently called to let me know that he and two other pupils had got into a top flight-training gymnasium. It meant a lot hearing that, and as a teacher you have more success stories on a daily basis. But being CEO is an important role and I get an enormous kick out of seeing the success that comes to IES pupils. I’m part of a team at Internationella Engelska Skolan that is changing the shape of Swedish education – for the better.